UEFA set to give clubs more say over Champions League deals
GENEVA (AP) — UEFA is preparing to give Europe’s top soccer clubs the greater control they have wanted for Champions League marketing rights and deals — an issue that helped drive some to launch the breakaway Super League.
UEFA said in a statement released late Tuesday it “started the search for a marketing and sales partner” to complete deals within an agreed strategy for three seasons of club competitions from 2024-27.
The clubs’ increasing demands were a barrier in March to completing talks between UEFA and then-leaders of the European Club Association about new formats for competitions taking effect in 2024.
The Champions League will add four entries in a 36-team single standings table where each is guaranteed 10 games instead of six because influential clubs wanted more money and more games against each other.
During the negotiations, 12 ECA member clubs were also plotting the Super League, which was launched in April and collapsed within 48 hours. Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus have refused to renounce the project while the other nine founding teams rejoined the 240-member ECA.
Still, the greater commercial control those rebel clubs fought for is likely to be granted by UEFA to the ECA, which is now led by Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser al-Khelaïfi.
Al-Khelaïfi told ECA members last month in Geneva there was agreement with UEFA for a joint venture “to better optimize revenues from club competitions.”
“This new model (would have) ultimate responsibility for the business and commercial side of the club competitions, resulting in new and better commercial rights strategies and management,” said Al-Khelaïfi, who also chairs Qatari broadcaster beIN Media Group, a Champions League rights holder.
Clubs want more creative digital content plans to help drive increases in Champions League prize money. The 32 group-stage clubs will share 2 billion euros ($2.3 billion) in each of the three seasons to 2024.
The UEFA-ECA joint venture could end a 32-year run by Switzerland-based agency TEAM Marketing to handle exclusively all sales for European club competitions.
UEFA said sales are scheduled to start in the second quarter of next year.
Unleashing the Kraken brings the NHL to the Pacific Northwest with a team that's selling merchandise at a rapid pace and should contend right away like Vegas did. Seattle would have to reach the Stanley Cup Final to match the Golden Knights.
The two teams that get to the final will again go the traditional way through the Eastern or Western Conference, after the 56-game 2021 season was played entirely within four divisions until the semifinals. Cross-border play is back, too, and every team is scheduled to play the other 31 at least twice — once at home and on the road.
Those games will air on ESPN's networks, ABC and TNT in the U.S. in the first season of a new TV deal. Puck movement will be tracked with microchips for the first time, opening the door for a Zamboni load of new data and gambling opportunities.
Barring a turn for the worse by the pandemic, the league will take a three-week break in February for players to participate in the Olympics for the first time since 2014.
Frank Franklin II
Three teams changed coaches last season, including Montreal, which went to the final after replacing Claude Julien with Dominique Ducharme. More than a few coaches should be looking over their shoulders this year, but whose seat is hottest?
Lage: Philadelphia Flyers coach Alain Vigneault took a step back as his team finished sixth in the division last season in his second year. He faces pressure, leading a franchise that hasn't made the playoffs in five of the last nine years and whose last Cup Final run came in 2010.
Wawrow: Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher did his part in retooling the roster following Philadelphia's second-half meltdown last season. It's on Vigneault to make it work. Jeremy Colliton in Chicago has an 86-83-24 record since replacing Joel Quenneville.
Whyno: Colliton will need to take the next step with the Blackhawks shifting into contender mode, or he could be in trouble. Darryl Sutter just got Calgary's head job after replacing Geoff Ward last season, but the heat is on if the Flames struggle early and former Canadiens coach Kirk Muller is on staff if things go haywire.
Lage: Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid, who won the award last year for the second time in five years and finished third or fifth the other three seasons.
Wawrow: Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon, who has finished second twice and third once in the voting. It's time the NHL's most complete player gets top billing.
Whyno: MacKinnon is a man on a mission. He'll play a Hart-caliber season, but he wants the Cup.
Phelan M. Ebenhack
Lage: Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy does not get the credit he deserves because he plays for the best team in the league.
Wawrow: Let's go with a long-shot with Calgary's Jacob Markstrom. The Flames are playing in a Pacific Division that might be the NHL's weakest in featuring six of eight teams that failed to make the playoffs last year.
Whyno: Nothing against reigning Vezina winner Marc-Andre Fleury, but Vasilevskiy is the best goalie on the planet.
Lage: Vegas defenseman Shea Theodore, a rising star who is due for the honor playing for a Stanley Cup contender.
Wawrow: Unsure what more Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman had to do last year to earn his second Norris. Hedman is too good to not be a contender again this year.
Whyno: Cale Makar stacks the trophy case for the Avalanche. He just has to stay healthy.
Lage: Detroit defenseman Moritz Seider, drafted No. 6 overall in 2019, gives a rebuilding team desperately needed help on the blue line.
Wawrow: Montreal's undersized Cole Caufield proved during the Cup Final run he can produce on a big stage. There's no reason to expect him to take a step back.
Whyno: Going off the board here with Washington's Hendrix Lapierre, who surprisingly sticks in the NHL at 19 and puts on a show.
Frank Franklin II
Lage: Tampa Bay, Carolina, N.Y. Islanders, Boston, Florida, Washington, Toronto, N.Y. Rangers
Wawrow: Florida, N.Y. Islanders, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Toronto, N.Y. Rangers, Washington, Montreal
Whyno: Tampa Bay, N.Y. Islanders, Boston, Washington, Florida, Toronto, Carolina, Philadelphia
Lage: Colorado, Vegas, Dallas, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Calgary, Minnesota, Chicago
Wawrow: Colorado, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Vegas, Minnesota, Calgary, St. Louis, Los Angeles
Whyno: Colorado, Vegas, Winnipeg, Seattle, St. Louis, Edmonton, Dallas, Minnesota
Lage: Tampa Bay over Colorado. Lightning are first NHL team to three-peat since the Islanders dynasty in the early 1980s.
Wawrow: Islanders over Winnipeg. The Cup returns to Long Island for the first time since 1983.
Whyno: Colorado over Islanders. MacKinnon earns Olympic gold in Beijing and makes sure the Cup is lifted a mile high in Denver.
PSG's Lionel Messi, right, celebrates with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe after scoring his side's second goal during the Champions League Group A soccer match between Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City at the Parc des Princes in Paris, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)